Transformed through the Transfiguration
Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9
The Lord Jesus Christ took three of His close disciples up into an high mountain apart from the rest of the disciple and the multitudes. These three men had a distinct privilege to be apart with Christ and alone with Christ upon the mountain top. While they were up on the mountain they had a “mountain top experience” as the Lord Jesus Christ in human flesh incarnated was transfigured to reflect the very glory of God which He had before when He was with the Father. John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. The Lord Jesus had laid aside His glory to become a servant and to be made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: While He was upon the earth in His humanity, His glory was concealed. For a few moments, these three men had the distinct and “awesome” privilege to behold the glory of God. The glory of God was still visible in the humanity of Jesus Christ as the apostle John records. John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. For these few moments, upon the mountain, these men beheld the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in His deity.
Consider Jesus’s Appearance: Jesus began to pray. While He prayed a transformation took place. His face began to shine as the brightness of the sun. The sun is exceeding bright so that it will blind the eyes of any who stare at it for long. The glory of God is so bright compared to the very sun that warms our entire universe. How glorious for the face of Jesus to shine forth. How fitting for the Sun of righteousness to arise, who was prophesied in Malachi to reflect the glory of God (Malachi 4:2). The glory of God is associated with light. When God revealed His glory it was an experience that shined forth great light. Saul of Tarsus saw the glory of the Lord Jesus and was blinded and his eyesight was never the same. If we were to gaze upon the brightness of the glory of God, we would be blinded by this experience. Jesus is the brightness of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus will be the very light of the New Jerusalem. There will be no need for a sun because the Lord Jesus will be the light.
This great metamorphosis revealed also the purity of Christ and the holiness of Christ. His raiment was as white as the light. White pictures the purity, righteousness, and holiness of the Son of God. This white is light. There is no darkness in him at all. God is light and Jesus was radiating the very whited light of God. He was not merely reflecting the light, but He was the source of the light of God. Jesus is the light of men, the light of the world. 1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
In Jesus humanity, there was no beauty to be desired when man would see Him (Isaiah 53:2). In His deity, He is revealing the very glory, purity, righteousness, and holiness of God. Many passages in the Scriptures speak of the color white in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The color white is said to be in Matthew as white as the light. In Mark the color white is as white as snow, so white in fact that this white could never be replicated by a fuller. The fuller is a launder of clothing. No man has the ability to whiten a garment as white as the whiteness of Christ. How true for no man has the ability to wash away the stains of his sins and to be as clean as Christ. Yet it is the very blood of Jesus Christ that washes our blackened and defiled, stained hearts as white as snow. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18) It is only the precious blood of Christ that can cleanse a man and make him as white as Jesus Christ. Man cannot give himself a robe as white as Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ in His white righteousness clothes a justified man in the whited robes of salvation; the garments of His white righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Revelation 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. In Luke we see that the raiment of Jesus Christ was glistering. This is to be radiating such as sending forth lightning. The word is translated glistering-to flash forth as lightning. What a glorious sight this must have been.
When we reflect upon this glorious sight, we are reminded that all of those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ by repenting and believing upon Him for salvation will one day be glorified to be made just like the Lord Jesus Christ. These disciples saw only a minute picture of what Jesus Christ looks like in His glory. One day all believers will see the Lord Jesus Christ as He is, but they will also be transformed to be just like Him. They will be given a new glorified body and will reflect the true glory of God. No longer will the image of God be marred by sin. Believers look forward to seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in His glistering glory and to be made like Him.
Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. I Corinthians 15:51-54
Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Two men appear in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ upon the mountain. Moses and Elijah. Both of these men has experiences upon mountain tops with the presence of God and the glory of God in their lifetimes upon earth. Now they have the distinct privilege of appearing in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ. Moses when he lived upon earth was invited in Exodus 24 to come alone and to come near to the presence of God. 70 Elders, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu were permitted to see God with Moses. No other person was able to be this close to the glory of God. Moses had the greater privilege to later see the God of Israel. We know that no man has seen God at any time and this is true (I John 4:11). It is not a contradiction. NO man is able to gaze upon God in His glory without the very glory of God taking his physical life. Moses and these men were able to see the God of Israel in glory but not without limitation. They saw Him manifested, And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness (Exodus 24:10). His glory was as the sight of devouring fire.
In Exodus 33 we read of Moses again seeing God in His glory. Moses spoke with God face to face as a man speaks with His friend. The Lord had descended and the glory of the cloudy pillar rested upon the Tabernacle. What a privilege to have the Lord talk with Moses. Moses asked a request of the Lord while communing with his God. Moses heart was full as the Lord had reminded Moses of His promise and of His presence. God had reminded Moses of him finding grace in the sight of God and the truth that God knew him by name. Moses wanted to know God and His way. Moses asked God for God to, “shew me thy glory.” What an incredible statement. Consider this radiating sight of God in comparison with the three disciples with Christ upon the mount of Transfiguration. This same Moses appeared with Christ in His glory upon that mount.
And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33:18-23)
In the next chapter of Exodus we read of God again coming down to meet with Moses as Moses ascended the mount. God proclaimed His very name to Moses. Moses made haste, bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. A very proper response when one sees and hears from the God of Heaven. When Moses descended from this mountain experience with the Lord, this brought about a transformation in his own body. Moses face began to shine with the very glory of God. Moses had to put a vail upon his face because it shone with the brightness of God. He had been with God and was radiating His glory.
For a New Testament Believer, we cannot enter the presence of God in this fashion. We do not seek for mountain top experiences to see the glory of God in a physical way. We do not expect to see the glory of God shining upon our faces. Howbeit the transformation of the glory of Christ should be revealed and reflected in each of us as believers because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 3 and 4 speak of the glory of God revealed and reflected to and through NT believers. The glory of God was revealed through Moses and the OT Law, the OT children of Israel could not steadfastly gaze upon this glory. As NT believers we see not the glory of God under a vail on the face of Moses, but rather in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This glory of God visible to us in Christ ought to bring about a transformation in our daily lives. Believer’s lives, when they see the transfigured glory of Jesus Christ, ought to be transformed themselves into the same glorious image. We are not to put a vail over this revealed and reflected glory, but rather to let this glory change us and then to reflect Christ to a lost and dying world. Our gospel which is a glorious gospel of light must shine forth to the lost. The OT law was graven in stones and this law was glorious, but the change of the Holy Spirit of God in the lives of NT believers is even more glorious written in the fleshly tables of the heart. The Law brought condemnation and was glorious but the Spirit brings life and righteousness and is more glorious. As believers we are to gaze into the Word of God and to become more like the Son of God by the work of the Spirit of God.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
II Corinthians 3:1-4:7
New Testament Believers must not be drawn into the trap of looking for visions, dreams, and experiences. The Apostle Peter who was upon the mountain top with Jesus Christ and saw the very appearance of Jesus Christ altered before him, speaks about this very experience:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: II Peter 1:16-19
How may one then be transformed through the transfiguration? Peter reveals to us that we must focus upon the revealed Word of God. We can ask the Lord as did Moses, “shew me thy glory.” We then look into the Word of God and gaze upon the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ in the pages of the Word of God. We are to take heed to this word of prophecy and let the Spirit of God take the glory of God found written on the pages of its text and make it to shine forth the glory of God in our hearts so that it metamorphoses our lives. We are to let this light shine in our lives awaiting the day that the day will dawn and the day star will arise in our hearts. The appearance of Jesus Christ ought to be manifest in our mortal bodies so that we radiate the glory of God. One day soon we shall see Him as He is and we shall be like Him.
Thank the Lord for the appearance of Christ upon the mountain. May we as NT believers make haste, bow our heads toward the earth, and worship as did Moses. May our lives reflect the transforming glory of God daily just as Jesus was transfigured upon the mount. May unbelievers behold that Jesus Christ is the glory of God full of grace and truth and receive Him as their Saviour.